NZ winemakers woo China

By Kieran Campbell

Young women with taste for Kiwi whites are particular target in potentially vast market.

Chris Yorke. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Chris Yorke. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Affluent young Chinese women may be the future of New Zealand's wine industry.

The exponential growth in China in the past decade has helped New Zealand's wine industry grow beyond $1 billion, despite dips in our economy since the global financial crisis.

Annual wine exports to the people's republic are now worth more than $25 million and domestically companies are starting to expand and diversify to keep up with global demand.

New Zealand Winegrowers sent a contingent to China to inform the country's wine drinkers about the Kiwi white varieties.

NZ Winegrowers global marketing director Chris Yorke said he expected China to eventually overtake Canada as our fourth-biggest export market.

"We see China as a major opportunity for us," Mr Yorke said. "We're seeing exponential growth [in China] in the last few years.

"The younger [drinkers], particularly 25- to 35-year-old women, are a very important target group for us."

Wine exports to China have increased from 204,000 litres in 2007 to 2.5 million litres in 2013.

Wine critic, judge and educator Bob Campbell, a Master of Wine, said he believed it was possibly a mild rebellion by young Chinese that was turning them to white wines instead of reds, the traditional Chinese favourite, because they thought, "I'm not doing what my parents do."

"It's a trendy sort of thing, like having an iPhone instead of an Android."

He said it was "a really tough market" but more New Zealand wineries were beginning relationships with Chinese distributors.

"There are so many of them, and if we can convince them that New Zealand wine is the thing to drink, gosh, we'd never keep up."

Bayleys research senior analyst Ian Little said that since the global economic downturn after 2006, many producers had changed their focus from quantity to quality but in the past year more wineries were expanding or buying new vineyards.

The export price of grapes has increased in the past year to $1293 a tonne, but is still well below the 2008 peak of $2161 a tonne.

As wineries recover, the Chinese market could potentially be huge, Mr Little said. "If they all start drinking wine there's no way New Zealand alone could meet their requirements anyway. We're only ever going to be contributors to that market, we're not going to dominate it." APNZ

- APNZ

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